This past week the Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) released a proposed new set of experimental rules for lacrosse in an effort to create a version of the sport that can be played in the Olympic games. Lacrosse was played in the Olympics a few times in the early 1900s and in 2028 it will be played again as a demonstration sport as it inches closer to truly being added to the Olympic games. The goals of these changes are fueling continued international growth, increasing spectator appeal and maximizing media exposure. The rules are very different from the current versions of the sport being played and have caused mixed reactions in the lacrosse community.
Does lacrosse need to be changed for it to be in the Olympics?
If you are reading this then you are most likely a lacrosse player or fan that loves the sport. A situation like the Olympic lacrosse rule proposal is one where every lacrosse player or fan must reflect on why they have come to love the sport and why they believe the current state should be good enough. I fell in love with lacrosse because it was different. I was a part of this amazing fast paced, physical, and creative sport that was a combination of the other sports I played like hockey, basketball, and soccer. Having 10 players on the field at a time working as a unit to win was amazing to witness. The current rules seem almost perfect.
Those that are not in the lacrosse community see things from a different perspective. Lacrosse is fast paced and an interesting sport, but it is not as popular as soccer or basketball which are in the Olympics and played around the world. Getting a stick and equipment for a team of 20 people is much more difficult than getting a basketball or soccer ball. Lacrosse is growing, but the committee wants to find a way to make it grow faster by making it easier for people to play through the proposed rules.
In 2019, lacrosse is bigger than ever before, but is at an awkward stage in its growth. It is fastest growing sport in America, but still an afterthought in the minds of casual sports fans. In some areas of the US and Canada, lacrosse is a way of life. In others, a stray clip on Sportscenter is the extent of many people’s exposure to the sport.
Football, basketball, baseball, and hockey are regarded as the “Big 4” sports in terms of the popularity of their professional leagues and soccer is becoming a major sport as well. Lacrosse is constantly vying for popularity in a market in which most sports fans probably are not thinking to themselves “there’s just not enough sports to watch.” Having lacrosse in the Olympics could expose more people to it than ever before and get sports fans hooked on it.
Does lacrosse need to be in the Olympics?
Getting lacrosse into the Olympics is important, but it does not have to define the sport. The World Cup is more important to the soccer community than soccer in the Olympics is. The same could happen for lacrosse. The FIL World Lacrosse Championships and FIL Women’s World Cup for field lacrosse and the FIL World Indoor Lacrosse Championships for box lacrosse are growing every four years. They could still be recognized by the lacrosse community as the pinnacle of lacrosse. The Olympics will just be another chance for countries to compete against each other and for the sport to be played by people from around the world even if it is a different version of lacrosse.
The World Lacrosse Championships are the closest event lacrosse has to the Olympics right now and it is always a beautiful thing to see so many players from around the world come together to celebrate the sport.
There are still nine years until lacrosse will be played as a demonstration sport in the 2028 Olympics and lacrosse will be much different by that time just as the world will be. One of the key points in the FIL’s release of the proposed rules is that the development of Olympic lacrosse will not replace field, box, or women’s lacrosse. Players will not be forced to play this new version. Whatever decisions are made in the end I hope that a version closer to current NCAA and Professional lacrosse is played, but lacrosse being played at all in the Olympics will be good for the sport.
Let us know what you think of the proposed rules and if lacrosse needs to be changed to be in the Olympics and become one of the major sports.